NBA Wrap: Johnson's late heroics give Nets win

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NBA Wrap: Johnson's late heroics give Nets win

PHOENIX -- Joe Johnson stole a pass and dropped in a short jumper as time expired in overtime, giving the Brooklyn Nets a 100-98 win over the Phoenix Suns on Friday night.

Johnson had tied the game at the end of regulation on a short floater with 30 seconds left. He finished with 13 points on 6-of-19 shooting as the Nets picked up their first road win of the season.

Brook Lopez scored 25 of his 27 points for Brooklyn in the second half and overtime.

The Suns had tied the game on a lob to P.J. Tucker for a dunk with 57 seconds left in overtime. Tucker scored 15 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter and overtime for the Suns, who had been undefeated at home in four previous games.

The Nets lost point guard Deron Williams in the first quarter when he sprained his left ankle (see full recap).

LeBron scores 39 in Heat win
MIAMI -- LeBron James scored 39 points, Dwyane Wade had 17 points, eight assists and a career-best eight steals, and the Miami Heat held off the Dallas Mavericks 110-104 Friday night.

James made 14 of 18 shots for the Heat (6-3), while Chris Bosh scored 14 points. Norris Cole and Rashard Lewis each added 11 for Miami, which has topped the 100-point mark in every game this season.

Wade became the second player in Heat history with at least eight steals and eight assists in a game; Tim Hardaway did it against Atlanta on Dec. 20, 1997.

Dirk Nowitzki scored 28 points for Dallas (5-4), while Vince Carter added 21 and Monta Ellis had 20 for the Mavericks. Jose Calderon added 12 for Dallas, which turned the ball over 24 times (see full recap).

Pacers push record to 9-0
INDIANAPOLIS -- Roy Hibbert scored 24 points and had eight blocks, both season-highs, leading unbeaten Indiana past Milwaukee 104-77 Friday night.

The Pacers became the first team since the 2002-03 Dallas Mavericks to open a season at 9-0. Indiana has already beaten all four of its Central Division foes and will attempt to stay perfect Saturday night at Chicago.

Hibbert had plenty of help. Paul George scored 10 of his 22 points in the third quarter and Lance Stephenson finished with 11 points.

The short-handed Bucks (2-6) spent most of the game playing catch-up. With four injured players sitting out, O.J. Mayo led the Bucks with 20 points. Khris Middleton and Gary Neal each had 11 -- nowhere near enough to avoid a fourth straight loss.

Indiana took control with two big third-quarter spurts to build a 68-53 lead (see full recap).

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

NEW ORLEANS -- Of all the players Joel Embiid could be compared to, a similarity between a 7-foot-2, 270-something-pound center and a 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard wouldn’t seem like a match.

That’s exactly what Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry sees, however, when looking at Embiid and reigning MVP Steph Curry.

“He’s different than anybody that’s been in this league in a long, long time,” Gentry said Thursday before the Sixers win over the Pelicans. “He’s a tremendous talent, he really is. I’ve never seen a guy that size, and with that kind of strength, that’s got such a soft touch. He shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry. It’s so soft when it leaves his hand.”

Curry is shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from three. Embiid is 45.8 percent from the floor is 44.2 percent from long range.

Embiid flashed a big smile and paused to react when hearing of Gentry’s praise. He had been feeling hard on himself after going 0 for 5 beyond the arc against the Pelicans (see story).

“Steph is probably one of the best shooters in the league right now," Embiid said. "So that compliment means a lot."

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”